Coherence and Mess, Insights and Noise: The Role for Strategy in a Converged World
What do a sausage, salad dressing, shopping cart and a giant box have in common? They are all life lessons that led the talented team at TBWA/ChiatDay to become strategists in account planning. And those four seemingly random objects fit in perfectly with the theme "Coherence and Mess, Insights and Noise," part of thinkLA's AdU educational series.
Nick Barham, Chief Strategy Officer, led us on a rollicking overview of what a strategist does. Hint: There is not a linear way of mapping this job. His journey started with the British version of a Slim Jim called "Perperami" where Barham had the realization that memorable advertising can become a part of pop culture.
The key elements of a strategist's job are relationships and storytelling. Consider the pairings of Business & Creativity with Brands & Culture. A super creative idea still has to address business goals. A strategist needs to understand how the brand fits into a global culture. Without a story the consumer can relate to, the brand is just an object. Best skills to have for this job? Barham says challenge familiarity, tell a great story and make strange connections. "Bring people and their worlds to life. Create the world they want to live in. Who are their role models?" He cited this Paralympics "Meet the Superhumans" clip as an example of seeing things differently.
Larry Lac, Director of SMARTS Lab, described his journey that included close encounters with Donald Trump and his one-time only claim to ESPN "I know I can make a viral video." Luckily, he was right and Alexander Ovechkin's Russian Shooting Accuracy Challenge got over two million hits and features the best use of Russian salad dressing ever Another great use of salad dressing came in Lac's work with Kraft and Bravo and "The Zesty Guy" Lac credits team collaboration, "Advertising uses everyone's unique talent. When you put it all together with courage you can make really cool things."
Jennifer Costello, Sr. Planner, was told, "Sweetie, you don't belong here" and ushered to the strategic planning department. Her three keys to success: Be a cultural arbiter, you need to know everything that's happening; Be a Method Actor, take a long walk in your audience's shoes; Be a maker, show proof of your concept. Costello spent two weeks living with Walmart shoppers to understand their behaviors and helped craft the successful "Every cart tells a story" campaign.
Planning Director/Digital Strategist Kyle Luhr said if creatives are known as frustrated artists, then strategists are frustrated entrepreneurs. He asks, "How do we use digital to hack the planning process?" The flexibility of digital allows you to see if something is working or not and adjust accordingly. To prove how the space between learning about something and buying it is shrinking, Luhr was involved in the Nissan Versa campaign, the first car sold on Amazon featuring a giant box that went viral with an assist from Reddit.
When in doubt, any argument you need to make for or against strategy can be found in an episode of Breaking Bad, which Barham calls a "Get out of jail free card for strategy."
Recap by Lynne Gullo (@pinkypulse) pinkyonthepulse.com